“And the winners are…”

The first-ever public event held at the Meadow Lake Civic Centre in more than 18 months took place Friday (Nov. 5) when the 2021 Meadow Lake and District Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards (MLBEX) were held. The event attracted a packed house featuring a who’s who of the local business community.

“This is a chance for us to celebrate accomplishments of employers, employees, and community members,” remarked Chamber executive member Miles Nachbaur when addressing the crowd. “We have more categories this year than ever before, which is a testament to our growing business community.”

One of the top winners of the night was The Medicine Shoppe, which was named 2021 Business of the Year.

“I was completely caught off guard and probably gave the worst acceptance speech in MLBEX history,” pharmacist/owner Geoff Barton told Northern Pride following the event. “It definitely means a lot. Traditionally, pharmacies don’t tend to win these kind of awards because we’re health care at the core and the transactions we have are a lot different, a lot more personal. I was not expecting it at all, and it came as a complete shock we were chosen.”

The Medicine Shoppe opened its doors at 120C Centre St. close to five years ago.

“We have a bit of history behind us now and we’ve definitely hit our stride,” Barton added.

As for the MLBEX gala itself, Barton said it was nice to see people gathered in a public setting once again, and enjoying themselves as they did pre-pandemic.

“The Chamber took a lot of steps to make sure it was a safe event COVID speaking,” he said. “There was a lot of apprehension, but they made some really good calculations and it was nice to be in the same room with everyone again. It was fun.”

Also in the running for Business of the Year were Eagle Creek GM, Eatery On Main, Cookies On Call, Nu-Line Auto Body, Nor’Wester Motor Inn, Russ’ Small Engine Repair, The Shop, The Wireless Age and Schwing’s Meating Place.

“There was a lot of other nominees and, looking around the room, there was a lot of young business owners as well,” Barton said. “As a Meadow Lake resident, it’s good to see there is a lot of youth putting their roots down and taking the risk to operate a business. It bodes well for the future of the business community – there are a lot of really good ideas people are putting their money and their sweat behind.”

Barton also acknowledged his staff and his family.

“I owe my staff a huge debt of gratitude, as well as my parents who actually came to the event with me,” he said. “They make the place what it is and this award is definitely for them as well.”

Meanwhile, other winners announced during Friday’s MLBEX gala were: Bryan Treptow, Community Builder Award; Brayden Shortt of Meadow Vape Pipes and Accessories, Young Business Leader; Dairy Queen, Multicultural Business of the Year; Cody Montour, Indigenous Leader of the Year; RCMP Cst. Brody Cameron, Volunteer of the Year; Vickie Senger of the Meadow Lake Co-op Marketplace, Customer Service Award; the RCMP Youth Advisory Committee, Non-profit/Communuty Organization of the Year; Cookies on Call, New Business of the Year; Brandie Campbell of Cookies on Call, Female Entrepreneur of the Year and Home Hardware Building Centre, Roots of Hope Workplace Mental Health Workplace of the Year.

The Roots of Hope Mental Health Award is a new prize, introduced for the first time this year, which recognizes businesses making a great contribution in the area of mental health.

“By luck I fell into this award,” stated Wayne Marsh of Meadow Lake Home Hardware. “My dad, Don Marsh, is really the person responsible for getting our store on board with such an excellent program. I feel quite lucky we are able to have stores coast to coast able to provide mental health opportunities for our staff, especially in the last year-and-a-half with everything everybody has gone through. Everyone in this room has gone through a tremendous amount of whatever you want to call it, but I appreciate this award and thank you very much for recognizing our store.”

This was echoed by Don Marsh who also shared his pleasure in once again being part of a public event such as MLBEX.

“Man, is it good to be back in this building for something other than a poke in the nose or a poke in the arm,” Don Marsh said while referencing the civic centre’s recent use as a COVID-19 testing site and vaccine clinic. “I’m proud of our family, our management team and all our staff. And, I feel really lucky to be able to work and earn a living in this community. I also feel honoured to be recognized in a group of such worthy businesses and community organizations. Thank you, and let’s hope we see the end of this pandemic really soon.”

by Phil Ambroziak